CLARITY

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Eph 4:11-13: It was he who gave some to be apostles, some to be prophets, some to be evangelists, and some to be pastors and teachers, to prepare God's people for works of service, so that the body of Christ may be built up until we all reach unity in the faith and in the knowledge of the Son of God and become mature, attaining to the whole measure of the fullness of Christ.

II Pet 1:20-21: Above all, you must understand that no prophecy of Scripture came about by the prophet's own interpretation. For prophecy never had its origin in the will of man, but men spoke from God as they were carried along by the Holy Spirit.

I Jn 2:27: As for you, the anointing you received from him remains in you, and you do not need anyone to teach you. But as his anointing teaches you about all things and as that anointing is real, not counterfeit--just as it has taught you, remain in him.

Claritas Scripturae. The efficaciousness or sufficiency of scripture to communicate its message to humanity.  It was one of the clarion calls of the Protestant Reformation.  Reformers like Martin Luther and John Calvin used the term to argue that scripture was not the custody of only the church elite but could be read and understood by all Christians.  This was a rich insight,  for it freed up whole generations of Christians to more directly encounter God's Word, whereas before many had only received it in mediated forms through sermon, play, and visual art.   However, this term was later abused by some who used it to suggest that readers of scripture could safely ignore  the gifts of scholarship, as well as the teaching of other Christians.  Some went so far as to believe that a Christian's personal understanding of scripture was not open to any external test or gauge of its validity.  This was a radical individualism that the Reformers would have been shocked by.

Luther and Calvin did not understand the clarity of scripture to suggest that it was not in need of interpretation but that it was sufficient for its purpose and that scripture possessed the resources to test the fallible understanding of each generation of the church.  Indeed, scripture could act as a corrector and refiner of received understanding.  That corrective is mediated via the community of interpreters.  Scripture is not the sole trust of any one class of Christians, and as such, it is therefore best understood by bringing together the insights of the larger people of God.

Christians hold that scripture carries a certain authority and perfection that no other text has.  It therefore has a uniqueness that sets it apart in vital ways from other works.  The teaching of God's Word is without fault, while other human works always carry some fault line of error.  Yet scripture also shares a human element with such texts.  The clarity of scripture reminds us that human texts are best understood in a community of interpreters.  We need multiple counsel to explicate meaning.  Equally, scripture's clarity also reminds us that texts are partially independent of our understanding of them.  They have the power to challenge us, to confound us, or even to reform us.  If literature's meaning is mediated through communities, it is not the sole property of them.  It can speak from without. 

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Central Insight: Textual meaning is not exclusive to the insights of a community; texts can also challenge and change communities.

Suggestions for Application: Examine how a particular text has challenged or even changed your thinking on a subject.

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"All manner of thing shall be well/ When the tongues of flame are in-folded/ Into the crowned knot of fire/ And the fire and the rose are one." -- T.S. Eliot, Little Gidding